Cream – Farewell Concert (1969) (VHS rip)

frontcoverFarewell Concert is the live recording of the Cream’s final concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 November 1968. Aside from the band’s reunion concert in 2005 it is Cream’s only official full concert release on video. It was originally broadcast by the BBC on 5 January 1969. It was not released on video in the US until 1977. The opening acts for the concert were future progressive rock stars Yes who were just starting out and Taste, an Irish trio led by Rory Gallagher. (by wikipedia)

Although the members of Cream (Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce) ran into a number of disagreements which led to the band breaking up, they at least kept themselves together enough to go out in style, playing a farewell tour before calling it quits (of course they ended up reuniting later). This “Farewell Concert” took place on November 26, 1968 at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where they would eventually perform again in 2005.

The Cream Farewell Concert (produced by Robert Stigwood, who of course went on to produce the biggest music-oriented films of the 1970s including Saturday Night Fever and Grease) has been released on home video a number of times, both in the form of the videotaped presentation as shown on BBC television, and a longer version shown theatrically with the videotaped footage transferred to film and two additional songs (Steppin’ Out and Sitting on Top of the World) as well as a slightly different opening and closing than the TV version. Kino’s new DVD presents the latter.

The film is introduced with narration by Patrick Allen , who says that Cream have “given rock a musical authority which only the deaf cannot acknowledge.” Allen makes more comments in between songs, and also interspersed are four backstage interview segments with the band members. Jack Bruce tells of frustrations with his music teacher as a kid (he wrote a string quartet at age 14, which the teacher didn’t like), Eric Clapton demonstrates his guitar methods, and Ginger Baker does likewise with his drums. It’s quite interesting to hear that these guys have backgrounds in classical music, as growing up I was usually told by my parents and teachers that classical was “real” music while rock was “garbage”- of course, that only made me like rock music that much more.

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Many fans and the band members themselves have said that it wasn’t their best. Regardless, it has for a long time been the only visual record of a complete Cream performance. The music is enjoyable for the most part, kicking off with “Sunshine of Your Love” which remains a radio mainstay to this day. Most of the songs last for several minutes, as the band goes into long instrumental stretches between the sung verses. After the backstage segment with Ginger Baker, we get to see him perform a very long drum solo on stage.

The concert is shot with many of the era’s conventions, mainly lots of quick zooming in and out by the camera. There are very few long shots of the band on stage or of the audience, instead most of the show is dominated by close-ups which get to be disorienting after a while. Two songs are also accompanied by psychedelic liquid light over the picture, which definitely adds to the atmosphere.

movieposterAs mentioned earlier, the 4×3 presentation was taken from a film print consisting of footage originally shot on video (the backstage segments appear to have been shot on film.) Watching the result back on video looks a bit muddy and leaves one longing for the original video source at its native frame rate, but this is still faithful to how this version looked in theaters, and apparently the only source of the two songs that weren’t included in the TV version. The film is in decent shape except for a bit of dirt and scratches at the beginning and end of reels.

The Cream Farewell Concert is certainly worth checking out for its historical value, and while the music performances may not have been the band at its best, they’re still better than the best performances of many contemporary groups. (by Jesse Skeen)

Cream played two final shows at the Royal Albert Hall, on the twenty sixth of
November, 1968. Both shows sold out within two hours of the box office opening.
They shared the bill with two, as yet, unknown bands, Yes, and Rory Gallagher’s
band, Taste.
But it was Cream that the audience had come to hear, and when they were
announced, the crowd erupted in an emotional display of affection. The musicians
themselves would later admit that they were surprised at the reception, and regretted
that they had stayed away from home for so long a time.

While the shows were extremely well received, and the adoring audience called the
band back for three encores, Ginger didn’t feel that they were very good.

“Those shows, at the Royal Albert Hall were really not very good gigs. Its a shame
that that’s how most people remember us, because Cream was so much better than that”.

concertposterI tend to agree with Ginger on this one. The recordings of Cream in California, taken
from both the second and third tours are, in my opinion at least, far better than the
Albert Hall concerts. Back in November of ’68 however, that would have put me in
the minority.

Jon Cott of Rolling Stone reviewed the second show (said to be the better of the two), under the headline “GOD SAVE THE CREAM”.

“What was exhilarating about the sell-out farewell concerts was each member of the group’s affirmation of his special gifts – Bruce’s subtle whirlwind bass figurations…Baker’s plateaued drum sectionings and textural clarifications, and Clapton’s Apollonian elegance and control.

Each musical line was almost hyperesthetically precise (this especially holds for Baker’s drumming), and each line fitted tightly against the other – parallel lines.

Many persons missed that raunchiness and fuzziness of effect which Cream often used to express – a strained indulgence, I thought. What revealed itself at Albert Hall was the poised quality of the performance, the detachment, the structure looked down upon from the stars-a self-begotten music (Cream is / was three stars) whose brilliance seemed born of itself without labour, for everything seemed effortless”.

Mr. Cott’s article was probably perceived to be a “rave review”, and I have no doubt that it was meant to be. What strikes me about it, however, is that he appears to be unduly hung up on the band’s technique. He believes that the “raunchiness and fuzziness” Cream had
in the past expressed was nothing more than a “strained indulgence” rather than a sign of exuberant enthusiasm for the music they were playing. He praises their poised detachment, as if this were a good thing. Strange indeed to praise artists for being detached from their art.
Yet, that may be an odd tribute to the band. So good were Eric, Jack and Ginger that, even on their “bad nights”, they were still pretty damn good. (by Edward Uzenko)

Yes … maybe not the best concert,maybe not the best rock movie  .. but  … I love the introduction by Patrick Allen … and I love the raw sound of this movie … the sound of one of the best groups we ever had !

And don´t forget:

Forget the lyrics, forget the message … just play !

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Personnel:
Ginger Baker (drums)
Jack Bruce (bass, vocals)
Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. Introduction by Patrick Allen (including Sunshine Of Your Love)
02. Sunshine Of Your Love (Bruce/Brwon/Clapton)
03. Interview Jack Bruce
04. White Room (Bruce/Brown)
05. Politician (Bruce/Brown)
06. Crossroads
07. Interview Eric Clapton
08. Steppin´ Out (Bracken)
09. Sitting On The Top Of The World (Burnett)
10. Spoonful (Dixon)
11. Interview Ginger Baker
12. Toad (Baker)
13. Interview Jack Bruce
14. I´m So Glad (James)

Total time: 1.19.36

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Cream – Wheels Of Fire (1968)

FrontCover1Wheels of Fire is the third album by the British rock band Cream. It was released in 1968 as a two-disc vinyl LP, with one disc recorded in the studio and the other recorded live. It reached #3 in the United Kingdom and #1 in the United States, becoming the first platinum-selling double album. In December 2015 it was ranked number 205 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It was the world’s first double album to be certified with a Platinum disc.

It was also released as two single long-players, Wheels of Fire (In the Studio) and Wheels of Fire (Live at the Fillmore), released together with similar cover art. In the UK the studio album art was black print on aluminium foil while the live album art was a negative image of the studio cover. In Japan the studio album art was black on gold foil while the live album art was black on aluminium foil. In Australia both covers were laminated copies of the Japanese releases (the double album was never released in Australia).(by wikipedia)

CreamLive1967Cream’s third album was planned to be a double album on which Atco Records’ producer Felix Pappalardi and the group would include several live performances.

The group and Pappalardi had, in July and August 1967, recorded studio material at IBC Studios in London, and at Atlantic Studios in New York City during September and October of the same year. Additional studio material was recorded at Atlantic Studios in January and February 1968, during a break from the band’s heavy tour schedule. The following month, Pappalardi ordered for a mobile recording studio in Los Angeles to be shipped to the Fillmore auditorium and the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.

Six shows were recorded in San Francisco by Pappalardi and recording engineer Bill Halverson,[1] and extra performances not included on Wheels of Fire ended up on Live Cream, and Live Cream Volume II. (by wikipedia)

CreamLive1968If Disraeli Gears was the album where Cream came into their own, its successor, Wheels of Fire, finds the trio in full fight, capturing every side of their multi-faceted personality, even hinting at the internal pressures that soon would tear the band asunder. A dense, unwieldy double album split into an LP of new studio material and an LP of live material, it’s sprawling and scattered, at once awesome in its achievement and maddening in how it falls just short of greatness. It misses its goal not because one LP works and the other doesn’t, but because both the live and studio sets suffer from strikingly similar flaws, deriving from the constant power struggle between the trio. Of the three, Ginger Baker comes up short, contributing the passable “Passing the Time” and “Those Were the Days,” which are overshadowed by how he extends his solo drum showcase “Toad” to a numbing quarter of an hour and trips upon the Wind & the Willows whimsy of “Pressed Rat and Warthog,” whose studied eccentricity pales next to Eric Clapton’s nimble, eerily cheerful “Anyone for Tennis.” In almost every regard, Wheels of Fire is a terrific showcase for Clapton as a guitarist, especially on the first side of the live album with “Crossroads,” a mighty encapsulation of all of his strengths.

CreamLive1968_02Some of that is studio trickery, as producer Felix Pappalardi cut together the best bits of a winding improvisation to a tight four minutes, giving this track a relentless momentum that’s exceptionally exciting, but there’s no denying that Clapton is at a peak here, whether he’s tearing off solos on a 17-minute “Spoonful” or goosing “White Room” toward the heights of madness. But it’s the architect of “White Room,” bassist Jack Bruce, who, along with his collaborator Peter Brown, reaches a peak as a songwriter. Aside from the monumental “White Room,” he has the lovely, wistful “As You Said,” the cinematic “Deserted Cities of the Heart,” and the slow, cynical blues “Politician,” all among Cream’s very best work. And in many ways Wheels of Fire is indeed filled with Cream’s very best work, since it also captures the fury and invention (and indulgence) of the band at its peak on the stage and in the studio, but as it tries to find a delicate balance between these three titanic egos, it doesn’t quite add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. But taken alone, those individual parts are often quite tremendous. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

JackBrucePersonnel:
Ginger Baker (drums, percussion, glockenspiel)
Jack Bruce (bass, vocals, guitar, cello)
Eric Clapton (guitar vocals)
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Felix Pappalardi (organ pedals on 01., trumpet, tonette on 95., Swiss hand bells on 07., viola on 09.)

Booklet1Tracklist:

In the Studio:
01. White Room (Bruce/Brown) 4.58
02. Sitting On Top Of The World (Vinson/Chatmon/Burnett) 4.58
03. Passing The Time (Baker/Taylor) 4.37
04. As You Said (Bruce/Brown) 4.20
05. Pressed Rat And Warthog (Baker/Taylor) 3.13
06. Politician (Bruce/Brown)  4.12
07. Those Were the Days (Baker/Taylor) 2.53
08. Born Under A Bad Sign (Jones/Bell) 3.09
09. Deserted Cities Of The Heart (Bruce/Brown) 3.38

Live at the Fillmore:
01. Crossroads (Johnson) 4:13
02. Spoonful (Dixon) 16.43
03. Traintime (Bruce) 7.01
04. Toad (Baker) 16.15

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Cream – Live Cream Volume II (1972)

FrontCover1An oft-overlooked curio, Live Cream, Vol. 2 appeared at a very odd time, with very little warning, almost two years after its predecessor — and at virtually the same time as the related (though not overlapping) History of Eric Clapton. And both showed up, not coincidentally, at a point when Clapton, unbeknownst to most of the public, was sidelined with a crippling heroin addiction — this album helped keep him in the public eye, as a singer as well as a guitarist. On its face, Live Cream, Vol. 2 is a more ambitious album that its predecessor, offering more songs and including concert versions of two of the group’s AM radio hits (as opposed to the album tracks that comprised the repertory on Live Cream, Vol. 1). And it is just about essential listening for anyone who wants to understand what Cream was about, which was live performance. Utilizing — for the time — state of the art mobile recording equipment, it was a significant achievement at the time in capturing the genuine sound of a high-wattage power trio on-stage, playing away at full volume; and the overall sonic excellence here must surely be credited to engineers Tom Dowd and Bill Halverson. The feeling that you are in the front row is very much in evidence, and this is largely due to their ability to capture the band’s live fury with clarity and intimacy, down to every nuance of Ginger Baker’s playing. As for the performances, this record does capture the band at their peak, though perhaps not at the very best moments of that peak — the group made their reputation as a live act with epic, lengthy jams that verged on jazz, but the repertory represented here (as opposed to that on Live Cream, Vol. 1) is more focused on their pop/rock efforts, such as “White Room,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” etc., which don’t lend themselves as easily (or at all) to opening out in extended jams, in the manner of, say, “N.S.U.” or “Sweet Wine,” or the legendary “Spoonful”; additionally, numbers such as “Sunshine of Your Love” and, in particular, “White Room,” require more vocal dexterity than Clapton and bassist/singer Jack Bruce could muster in this kind of concert setting — their singing, especially on “White Room” comes close to breaking down (“Sunshine of Your Love” fares better), whereas their playing holds together, almost better than perfect at times. “Deserted Cities of the Heart” — which opens the album — comes off exceptionally well as a concert piece, the bass and guitar actually combining to overcome the absences of swooping cellos, acoustic guitars, and other accompanying instruments from the studio rendition. And there is one priceless example of Cream in a full-tilt jam, on the 13-plus-minute closing cut, “Steppin’ Out” — the band’s sheer energy overcomes what minor deficiencies there are in the overall sound quality. And coupled with the compact, four- to five-minute versions of “Deserted Cities of the Heart” and “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” among others, the album is a vital, intense, and enjoyable listen that is ultimately rewarding. The original LP had its sonic limitations, and the original late-’80s CD showcased these more severely, but the 1998 remastered CD, part of The Cream Remasters series, solved most of those problems and offered the best sound ever heard for this album.  (by Bruce Eder)

BackCoverPersonnel:
Ginger Baker (drums)
Jack Bruce (bass, vocals)
Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals)

LiveTracklist:
01. Deserted Cities Of The Heart (Bruce/Brown) 4.32
02. White Room (Bruce/Brown) 5.39
03. Politician (Bruce/Brown) 5.05
04. Tales Of Brave Ulysses (Clapton/Sharp) 4.44
05. Sunshine Of Your Love (Bruce/Brown/Clapton) 7.22
06. Steppin’ Out (Bracken) 13.42

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Cream – Live Cream Volume I (1970)

OriginalFrontCover1Cream was a band born to the stage, a fact that the band and their record label realized the public fully understood by the number one U.S. chart placement for Wheels of Fire, with its entire live disc, and the number two chart peak for Goodbye, the posthumous release that was dominated by concert recordings. And in response to those success, we got Live Cream, Vol. 1 (originally known simply as Live Cream) in the spring of 1970, nearly 18 months after the trio’s breakup. This could well be their most consistently brilliant album for sheer musicianship, though it is also a peculiar one on a couple of counts, some of which probably prevented it from reaching quite as wide an audience as it might have otherwise. Released in April 1970 and derived from tapes made at three May 1968 California shows, all of the live tracks here consist of songs originally featured on the group’s least ambitious and most rudimentary album, Fresh Cream, dating from 1966 — and as it happens, there’s not a hit represented among the five songs, a fact that probably made this release seem more appealing to hardcore fans than to casual and curious listeners (who didn’t know what they were missing).

Cream_68_Winterland01The performances here show how far the group had come in the nearly two years since laying down the studio originals — take side one of the original LP, where they stretch out their playing, as well as boost it to new levels of intensity, on “N.S.U.” and “Sleepy Time Time,” so that the renditions here are the definitive ones, and by themselves should have made this album an essential acquisition back in 1970. But that brings us to the original side two and the 15-minute rendition of “Sweet Wine,” an excursion by all three players that is worth the quarter-hour time commitment of the listener. The live portion of the album ends with their searing, rollicking high energy rendition of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” And then, for reasons not clear — except perhaps simply that it was there, in the vaults, and seemed like a valuable piece of property, which it was (and what else were they going to do with it?) — the producers close Live Cream with a studio cut, “Lawdy Mama,” an Eric Clapton-inspired take on a traditional tune that subsequently evolved into the hit “Strange Brew” during what became the Disraeli Gears sessions.

Live02It’s not a match for everything we’ve heard, but in the spring of 1970 no one was exactly complaining over being handed a previously unissued studio track by the Cream, as a bonus to the concert performances here. As it turned out, there were more live tracks from some of these same shows to draw on in future releases and reissues, which would include a couple of the group’s hits; but Live Cream offers the overall highest quality, both in terms of clarity and fidelity, and the performances, which, in addition to the essential great playing (better in some ways than what was heard on some of the much-vaunted live tracks from Wheels of Fire), include excellent vocalizing by Clapton and Jack Bruce. Not that vocalizing looms that large here — the live tracks are all given extended jazz-based treatment, and the dialog among the three musicians as the jams develop is fascinating. Foreground and background seem to dissolve as all three musicians take charge, using the full range of their instruments. And where Bruce goes with his bass, especially on “Sweet Wine,” is every bit as rewarding as the places that Clapton’s guitar takes us; and Ginger Baker’s playing is a trip all its own. Performances like this single-handedly raised the stakes of musicianship in rock. (by Bruce Eder)

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Personnel:
Ginger Baker (drums, vocals)
Jack Bruce (bass, vocals, harmonica)
Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals)

Live03Tracklist:
01. N.S.U. (Bruce) 10.15
02. Sleepy Time Time (Bruce/Godfrey) 6.52
03. Sweet Wine (Baker/Godfrey) 15.16
04. Rollin’ And Tumblin’ (Morganfield) 6.42
05. Lawdy Mama (Traditional/Clapton) 2.46

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